It’s on the Browns now to make the Alex Mack deal work out
This morning, Pro Bowl center Alex Mack signed an offer sheet with the Jacksonville Jaguars. By this afternoon, the Browns matched the deal, meaning Mack will be in Cleveland for at least two more years.
The deal guarantees Mack $18 million over the first two years of the deal ($10 million this fall, $8 million in 2015, with $8 million per year in the final three years of the contract), and includes an option for Mack to walk away after two years if he is not happy.
“I’m excited for both Alex and the Browns,” Farmer said in a team statement. “We have talked about keeping our own players and this is a positive for us. Alex is a quality person and player that truly brings to life what playing like a Brown means.”
So the Browns now have two years to make sure that does not happen. But before we get to that, we wanted to go over a few items we’ve seen talked about in the past few days concerning Mack, his position and free agency in general.
The center position is not “valuable.”
Well, the center is one of two players on the offense who handle the ball on every offensive play, so right there that makes the position pretty important.
Beyond that, the position becomes even more important to a team like the Browns because of the division they play in. Twice a year, the Browns have to go up against Pro Bowlers Haloti Ngata and Geno Atkins, plus whatever the Pittsburgh Steelers decide to throw at them. Additionally, opposing defenses are not bringing pressure through left tackle Joe Thomas and, if Mitchell Schwartz (or someone) can hold down the right tackle spot, it’s not coming from that side either. Meaning it’s coming up the middle.
Finally, it’s one thing to say that anyone can play center, but all it would take this fall is for John Greco or some fifth-round draft pick that the Browns would have replaced Mack with to blow a block, leading to the shiny new quarterback landing on injured reserve, for fans to start complaining.
Having an All Pro in the prime of his career at the center position to counter all of that seems like a pretty good idea.
The contract pays too much money to a center.
While the deal works out to an average salary of $8.4 million per year, the important numbers are in the first two years. The Browns were going to pay Mack a little more than $10 million this year under the transition tag, and were probably looking at a $12 million bill (give or take) in 2015 if they had to franchise tag Mack.
Now, they are on the hook for $18 million over the next two years, which is less money. How is that a bad thing, exactly?
When it comes to paying your players, if you are going to pay someone big money then it should be the players you drafted and developed. Mack is better than anyone on the defense with the exception of Joe Haden, and is the second-best player on offense who is not on a rookie contract. He’s never missed a game in five years. He is very good at what he does and makes the Browns better. He’s the type of player that should be high on the team’s payroll list.
Mack doesn’t want to be in Cleveland.
Until we actually see that attached directly to Mack’s name with quote marks around it, it’s just so much noise. For all we know, someone from Kyrie Irving’s “camp” leaked the story (although it is more likely that it came from someone in Jacksonville as they had the most to gain from it).
And if Mack really is unhappy? Well, he can go home each night and roll around in his $18 million, that should make him feel better. The Browns need to keep good players on the roster, not let them leave town.
A key point to remember is that just because the contract says Mack can opt out after two years, that doesn’t mean he is required to do so. Which brings us to the major takeaway from all this.
It’s up to the Browns to make this work.
Now that Mack is still on the team, the responsibility of ensuring he stays in Cleveland falls on owner Jimmy Haslam, who has to stay out of the way and let general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine do their jobs. It falls on Farmer, who has to consistently get it right in the draft and free agency. It falls on Pettine, who has to coach these guys to their potential and show that he is the right person for the job.
Do that and suddenly you have a winning team, one that is attractive to players and difficult for Mack to walk away from.
The team took a gamble by placing the transition tag on Mack and letting the market determine his new contract. They now have two years to make that gamble pay off and show Mack that this is the place to be.
In more ways than one, the Browns are now on the clock.
(Photo by The Associated Press)